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Neither world-wide devastation fear has come true yet. In the present epidemics have been largely localized, but in the past epidemics and plagues were a sad part of life. People of my parents' age spoke of the horrors of polio -- the Saulk vaccine was a miracle to them.
By the end of the 19th century they knew rats and fleas carried disease. They also knew fumigation could help clear contaminated buildings and ships.
A machine used on large spaces was the Clayton Disinfector. It burned sulfur to create fumes, cooled them and then pumped them into the space needed fumigation. It was used on hospitals and other large infected buildings. It was also mounted on tugs to fumigate ships entering harbor (shown in the drawing below).